Meeting the younger IAS officers has its own charm. They often charter a fierceness that is witnessed only in the younger coterie of these esteemed administrators of India. Jammu Municipality Commissioner, Mandeep Kaur is one such person and as fearless in carrying out her work as she is known to be, she makes you feel at peace in her presence. Here is a coup d’œil of a rather personal side of the JMC Commissioner with inputs on her current plans of city improvement.
You have spent quite sometime in Jammu now, coming from Political Heartland, Uttar Pradesh, what are the differences between the two places that you find on a personal level?
UP is a huge state and Jammu is a smaller, compact more cohesive place. The two are different in terms of values. I grew up in Kanpur and I find the people here more docile. About work per se, the problems more or less are the same. Politically things are more established in UP and the political pressures vary from here. The politicians here draw the line on to what extent the officers should be pushed and I respect that about them here.
Your Master’s Degree from National Law School Bangalore would have meant a fat salary package in the private sector. Why the switch to administrative services?
It was just by chance. I was very happy with my private sector job but then it was one single life changing conversation with my father that change the course of where I was headed. However, after getting into this job, I find that there is no parallel. By doing the smallest of things for the people, there is a satisfaction you get that you cannot get anywhere else.
As a woman have you found a prevailing sense of a male led system in Jammu?
I have not experienced that in so much as can be made a generalization. I can actually say about my particular case that people have actually been very protective and have been responsive to whatever problems I have faced in the system. However, my experience does not apply to all. I have seen the discrimination that women face.
As a busy Administrator, how do you manage personal life with work?
I have no personal life (says jokingly) atleast in Jammu. All my time therefore goes at work!
Are there any plans to decongest the old city?
Parking is one issue and traffic mismanagement of parking is a bigger reason behind congestion in old city. Parking spots can be provided say 500mts away. We can expect people to walk a few hundred meters but not kilometers. 500 meters may sound like a big distance, but once people are provided infrastructure for betterment, they will follow the rules. People flout rules not because they want to, they flout rules because they do not have alternatives.
We have identified one parking place behind Hotel Fortune Riviera and another at Panjtirthi which will cater to the problem of parking for the markets around.
People litter around because of the lack of dustbins. Would you agree?
During Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan we had planned the installation of 500 dustbins and we did raise the money but the problem that arose was unexpected. Everybody expects cleanliness but nobody wants dustbins near their house or near their shops. The people rue that the dustbins are not cleaned regularly and as a result stink. We are trying to improve the collection system to solve that problem and are looking to solve these interlinked problems.
The Master Plans made by the JDA in past have been a failure. Does JMC have any plans to make things more comfortable for them?
The Master Plan is ready and has been submitted so there is nothing to be done by us now. Once that Master Plan comes, its enforcement is an issue. That is when every agency like us and the JDA has a role. Let us wait for the Master Plan to come and then you can see if the things are being followed.
What are your inputs on the National Green Tribunal’s declaring Jammu as a polluted, dirty city?
The NGT has taken cognizance of the cleanliness issue here and has issued us a notice too. Cleanliness is one problem, though their main concern is waste disposal. The Jammu High Court has also issued the order for the clearing of Tawi Banks. We have started segregation now and this segregation is not at the source but at the dumping sites since people will not be doing it right at the beginning for us.
Then we are placing small compost machines in areas with a lot of organic waste generation, say fruit and vegetable mandi. Our Safai Karamcharis will be made responsible to collect the recyclable waste and get that disposed off there only. We would also be placing some of these machines at the existing dumping sites near Tawi for the same. We are also placing machines to recycle construction waste.
Jammu’s Municipal area has been increasing over the years. What are the fresh challenges?
With expansion, people constructed their buildings in areas where municipal laws did not apply and after the 2004 notification where we expanded to 71 wards, these have become violations – no building plans, no approvals, no sanitation. All the bigshots in Apsara Road area have set themselves up in different areas because they know that one day all the violators at Apsara Road will be moved out.
All you need is Government will.